Denver Nuggets host former Arsenal star Per Mertesacker at Pepsi Center

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

Denver Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly often talks up the global reach of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment. Tuesday was a shining example of just how far it is.

The Nuggets hosted former Arsenal star defender and World Cup Per Mertesacker at Pepsi Center, showing the current Gunners academy director the various facilities at the arena.

Mertesacker had a storied career in European football before deciding to hang up his boots after Arsenal’s 2017-18 season. He won three FA Cups with the Gunners in 2014, 2015 and 2017 and also picked up two Community Shields (’15, ’17) during his time in England. He was also prolific with the Germany national team as he won the World Cup in 2014, picking up 104 caps and four goals before wrapping up his international career in 2014.

In Tim Connelly’s end of the season press conference, he mentioned the value of KSE operating sports teams from London to Los Angeles.

“The ownership group is the most impactful and powerful ownership group in all of sports – from London to L.A,” Connelly said. “There’s no one who has what the Kroenkes have. There’s no ownership group that’s more hands-on and more knowledgeable of who works for them across every specter of the organization.”

After the Nuggets’ season ended, Connelly traveled to Baku watch Arsenal take on Chelsea in the Europa League. Although the Gunners would lose the match 4-1, he appreciated the opportunity to learn about how the storied Premier League club functions.

“I’ve become a big soccer guy,” Connelly told Nuggets.com in an interview in June. “I’ve gotten to know some of the Arsenal guys, the Rapids guys and I’m cheering for them….You realize how big the Europa, Champions and Premier League is the more time you spend over there. It’s hard not to be a soccer fan.”

There are some similarities in the philosophy and approach of the two teams and there’s certainly a lot of respect between NBA and soccer players around the world.

“It’s funny all of the soccer players are NBA fans and all of our guys play FIFA,” Connelly said. “It’s neat to see, when we played in London a few years ago, how many high-level footballers came out and how many of those guys are huge basketball fans. And how many of our guys are sitting at the edge of their seats for a clasico. I think players respect players.”

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